Seriously, I’m asking. For a friend. That friend is you.
Only on occasion do I ever hear men alluding to “what makes someone more or less of a man” or what they consider a threat to their masculinity etc. But just because I don’t hear it often, doesn’t mean it isn’t a more widespread consideration.
Quite the opposite, I’d guess. A preoccupation that is kept secret because the vulnerability of admitting it is a threat to masculinity.
In these blog posts, the type of masculinity I’m interested in isn’t one I consider “toxic.” If I have anything to comment on that at all, it’s not here. Anyway!
Masculinity isn’t something I have ever thought about. To grow up gay was, to me, to be something so outside the traditional notion of masculinity that I felt completely disqualified from the competition. Though honestly, I probably just didn’t even notice that it was going on!
Is it that I don’t care about my masculinity, or is it that I’m comfortable with it therefore I don’t notice it at all? I don’t know.
I do know that it remains common for straight men to tease each other for being gay because it implies, “I respect your masculinity, which I will show by pretending you are something less masculine: a gay.”
You hear it in their company sometimes because they assume you’re straight until proven otherwise. Again, for better or worse, that’s something I’m used to. “Why wouldn’t they assume? Most people are.”
The joke itself doesn’t really insult me. It’s like an alien language. It’s a joke amongst heterosexual men: I don’t think it’s that it necessarily insults gay men, we just don’t even compute in that specific language. The joke contains no real gay people, just imagined gay versions of people who are definitely straight. It’s not the cleverest joke, sure. It’s the “talking about sports” of jokes.
Is this what they call internalized homophobia? Maybe.
In that case, here’s an associated problem I have. I’m a weirdo. Almost everything I do say and think makes perfect sense to me, and almost everyone I meet seems like a complete weirdo to me, but they don’t seem like weirdos to each other. That makes me the weird one!
(It also means weirdos are my favourite people. When we meet each other, we sigh the relief of having carried a weight most people can’t even see. And because they never acknowledged it, we began to deny it ourselves. We were just like, “Hahaha, I’m genuinely having fun in this bar and my chest hurts for some reason!”)
That makes me think two things:
- I wouldn’t have it any other way but weird—but is that only because I’ve become accustomed to the way things are?
- When people relate to you as poorly as others relate to me and vice versa, you have to choose the boats you want to rock very carefully if you want to make a change, or they won’t consider you worth the effort at all. Again, maybe that’s unfortunate, but that’s just how I perceive it.
Just so you know what bias is at work, here, before I go on: I’m a master accepter. Come to me if you need help with accepting something, and we’ll accept the fuck out of it! The world needs many other types, but I’m good at accepting things—so I accept that too!
If you’re gay and someone has assumed you aren’t, you can wait until it arises in conversation that you are, and pay close attention to how they react. I have to say, I’ve yet to have someone who makes “haha you’re gay” jokes treat me differently. So, whether or not it’s insulting, the people I’ve met that do it didn’t mean it that way.
I was once at a party and this guy asked me and my husband how we knew each other. When we told him, I saw the look on his face and I think I was like, “We’re gonna go round the room and make sure we say hi to, uh, other people.”
I cringe when I think about that look even now because I feel bad for that guy that he had to meet us!
“Sorry for my gayness” syndrome seems very close to internalized homophobia. However, there’s no non-gay version of myself to compare myself to, but if one existed, I kinda imagine he’d find something else to feel equally bad about.
Mine was just a gay-flavoured shame void. I almost completely left it behind at 23 when I moved to London for a year. London may or may not be a homocracy, but I acted as if it was, and now whenever I meet new people I assume they’re okay with the gay unless informed otherwise. Almost everyone has been—or silently became okay with it. Whatever prejudices remain seem like background noise to me.
That’s why I think it’s so important to represent yourself honestly. It’s like passive grassroots activism: your honest existence is how you stand for what you believe in.
Anyway, wasn’t I talking about masculinity? We’ll get back to that next time when I explain why masculinity, or any property others value but that we dismiss, is still important to understand.